Image

(Elderly Pursuits, Sunday Morning Reykjavík… with Kolbeinn H)

I have to applaud the guys from the Reykjavík issue for being so willing to be photographed out the cold. Even with my coat, hat and gloves, I was feeling the freeze, but these guys were often wearing less, if anything at all. But special props go to Kolbeinn H, who we shot at Reykjavíkurhöfn (the harbour) on a Sunday morning. It’s not just because of the cold that he deserves credit (it was maybe 2 degrees that morning), but because we seemed to have a constant audience ogling at him. 

Being a Sunday, there weren’t too many port workers around, but instead there was a constant stream of elderly couples slowly cruising around in their cars. As they’d approach, they’d slow down to a crawl, Mr and Mrs both crooking their heads out to see what was going on. And somehow Kolbeinn paid no mind. Maybe he’s used to people staring at him!

I suppose in the summer, the more popular elderly pursuit would be to take a stroll along the shore, but in winter they still want to go out but with a bit more warmth. I imagine they’d follow this driving ritual with a trip to a local swimming pool where they’d follow a few laps with a soak in a steamy hot tub, playing a game of chess on a floating chessboard while the snow falls gently on their shoulders. Then they’d head to a bakery for vínarbrauð (Danishes) to have with afternoon coffee. Bliss.

Hmm, thinking of retirement already…

See more of Kolbeinn and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (03) Reykjavík

Advertisements
Image

(The Way I Talk is Just the Way I Talk… with Kyle B from Reykjavík)

Before I met Kyle I knew that he was originally from Brazil but had been living in Iceland so long that he was actually an Icelandic language teacher. Then when he arrived in Seltjarnarnes for the shoot, he introducted himself with this sort of part southeast London, part cockney accent that I thought was a joke. Knowing that I lived in London, I thought he was putting it on to make fun of me. So my first reaction when he spoke was to laugh.

And then I was horribly embarrassed, ‘cos the way he talked was just the way he talked. A bit like me, he’s one of those guys who, when he speaks in another language, matches the accent of that language’s home territory. His Portuguese was perfectly Brazilian sounding. His Icelandic was totally Icelandic. His English was disarmingly sarf-londoney. None of this is put on. He’s just one of those absorby sort of people.

My own accent is a strangely unplaceable accent. I lived in Chicago until I was a teenager, then went to London when I was still young enough to absorb a new accent, but not quite fully. Yet no one ever guesses that I have American roots. People in England most often say I sound South African or Scandinavian. And when I’m back in America, people only ever think I’m British. But like Kyle, it’s outside my control. The way I talk is just the way I talk.

See more of Kyle and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (03) Reykjavík

Image

(You Really Can Meet the Elska Boys… with Gisli B from Reykjavík)

Reykjavík is pretty typical in that it’s got all the arts, culture, nightlife, and shopping you’d expect from a capital city. But it’s all packed into an area much smaller than most capitals. And that’s one of the things I love about it – there’s everything you need to not get bored yet you also have room to breathe.

​So what’s the downside of living in a city of just 120,000 people (in a country of 323,000)? Well, it may not be a downside at all depending on your perspective, but there’s certainly a lack of anonymity. Your reputation will follow you, so you better be good! And whoever you date has probably already dated one of your exes so they already know what to expect from you in bed! So again, you better be good!

This is a place where everybody knows everybody, especially in the little tiny gay community, and quickly everybody will know you. Even before I shot Gisli B (pictured here), I’d seen him behind the bar in a well-known café (I won’t tell you which one haha). I’d also ran into Haukur G and Friðrik Á during Elska’s Reykjavík shoot week. And if I’d had the time to go out on Friday night, I’d probably have seen others too.

And that leads me to what makes this issue one of the most intimate of all… it’s that you’re actually pretty likely to run into one of the fifteen guys featured in this issue. And even if you don’t meet them in the flesh, just turn on Grindr or Planet Romeo and you’ll see a few there. So if you’re an Elska fan who really wants to get to know these boys, Reykjavík is where you need to head. Oh, and if you want to do things the truly Elska way, then stay where Andriy and I stayed – Room With a View!

See more of Gisli and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (03) Reykjavík

Image

(This Is What An Icelander Looks Like… with FRIÐRIK Á from Reykjavík)

For the Reykjavík shoots, my assistant Andriy was in charge of finding the lads to be featured in the issue. Before meeting Friðrik, I’d only had a chat online and seen one profile pic. He seemed to have darker hair and complexion than most Icelanders I’d met, but with that very Icelandic letter ´ð´ (pronounced like the ‘th’ in ‘weather’ or ‘father’) in his name, I didn’t think he was anything but Icelandic. 

Having spent most of my life in a very multi-cultural place – London – where colour says nothing about your nationality, I took this same attitude to Iceland. Of course, although Reykjavík is much more multicultural than most people expect, it’s no London. Walking the streets in the city centre of the capital, you see a lot of races, but most of them are probably tourists. When you get out into the suburbs and villages, however, it all gets pretty white and blond. 
So when I met Friðrik in the flesh, I was dying to know his origin story. Yet it seemed so politically incorrect to straight out ask ‘why do you look like that?!’ He could have been an immigrant, I suppose, but when I heard him take a phone call, his Icelandic accent was so perfect that I was sure he was born in Iceland. And then when I read the story he wrote for the issue, his massively emotional relationship with nature made him seem Icelandic right to the core. I didn’t know why he had these sort of Middle Eastern / Indian looks, but whatever, I thought, this is what an Icelander looks like.

Eventually, however, I had to find out more, so we did a little interview that’s published in Friðrik Á’s very own dedicated issue of Elska Ekstra. He does indeed have ethnic roots in Asia, but his heart is truly in Iceland.

See more of Friðrik and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (03) Reykjavík

Image

(I Don’t Have a Type… Except I Sort of Do… with Dorian G from Reykjavík)

I have this annoyingly sanctimonious habit of insisting that I don’t have a type, and asserting that having a type is a horribly shallow and unfair thing. Yes, it annoys the fuck out of me to hear someone dismiss a lovely guy for something as trivial as being too short or too tall, too effeminate or too brutish, too simple or too intellectual. The truth is that a personality and spirit can carry a man a long way, and I’ve felt myself swoon at men that I never thought I’d connect with just by looking at them.

​​When I met Dorian G for our shoot at his flat in Reykjavík, he quickly ticked a lot of boxes. He’s short, dark-haired, arty, intellectual, soft-spoken, has a good amount of body hair, is rather pale, has blue eyes (omg blue eyes and dark hair is the most amazing combination). There was even a moment when I was sat next to him on the sofa and I touched his knee. I don’t even know why I did it but he pulled away almost instantly (how embarrassing). I guess him being so perfectly my ‘type’ made me go a bit foolish for a moment.

As ‘perfect’ as he seemed in that moment, these attributes aren’t concrete criteria for me, and that’s important to me. My own partner isn’t like Dorian G but that’s not to say that I dislike his light brown hair, smooth body and IT-geek personality. Yes, I admit it, I do have a type, but it doesn’t rule my heart.

See more of Dorian and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (03) Reykjavík

Image

(Americans Can’t Learn Language / My First Time in Paris… with BENJAMIN G by PEDRO IVAN SERRALVA)

I went to high school near Chicago and was one of just a few to not only take French instead of Spanish, but to do it for all four years (the requirement then was to study a foreign language for two years). I loved it. French was my favourite class. Madame Molzahn was my favourite teacher. I got the best grades in French than any other subject, which was A+ pretty much all the time. And outside school I listened to French music, watched French films, and even gave my grandmother French lessons. It also happened to be the only class where I didn’t get bullied, but that’s another story!

So when a couple years after graduation I got to Paris for the first time, I was pretty excited to say the least… and then quickly I was devastated! You see, even four years of A+ French from an American high school left me with pretty feeble language skills. I remember going for lunch with my boyfriend and not even knowing how to ask for the cheque. So much did our lessons concentrate on grammar that even a simple phrase like “l’addition s’il vous plaît” was outside my repetoire. So, when it came time to pay, I got a laugh from the waiter when I said “je veux vous donner mon argent” [“I want to give you my money”].

Benjamin G, from the photos, shot by the brilliant Pedro Ivan Serralva, is originally from America but now lives in Paris. I wonder if he arrived with the same sense of helplessness. Is it that Americans are bad at teaching languages, or more that Americans can’t learn languages?

I have to confess that I spent two years as a high school French teacher in Dallas, Texas. I stole / borrowed from the English GCSE and A-level French curriculum to bring a fuller, more practical element to the Texas standards of teaching. I tried to engage the kids, to involve them, and in some ways I think I was successful… but honestly, I doubt most of them would remember how to handle being in a Parisian restaurant.  You see, I’m not sure it’s the curriculum or the teaching standards (though both need a lot of improvement) that is the real problem. More it’s attitude amongst the kids and their parents that learning a foreign language is utterly pointless. So maybe my kids left my class not remembering a lot of specific vocabulary, but at least I’m certain that they learned a bit more about expression, fostered curiosity and built open-mindedness. These are, for me, what teaching French was all about. 

See more of Benjamin G and read his story in Elska Magazine issue (03) Reykjavík

Image

(Fjords, Coffee and a Bunny Bite… with Davið J from Reykjavík)

Davið J is the sweetest, gentlest, most hospitable guy… or shall I say “little blond girlieboy” as he refers to himself in the story he wrote for Issue (03). I was uncharacteristically late getting to his place for our shoot, having had to rush from the Friðrik Á shoot and then getting a bit lost en route even though their homes are just five minutes apart. Anyway, we had to get straight on the road since it was already afternoon and in November the sun already starts setting by 2:30pm.

We were planning to do some nude outdoor shots, so Davið chose Hvalfjörður (Whale Fjord) as a location that would be suitably uncrowded. By the time we got there – it’s nearly an hour north of the city – the light was already getting difficult photographically speaking. So we ended up speeding through the shoot faster than anything I’d ever experienced. It was also unbelievably cold (and I was fully dressed)… between a round of maybe twenty snaps, Davið would head back to the car, which he left running with the heaters on full blast, to warm up before getting back outside.

When  it was over, he stopped for a fag near a restaurant signed “closed for the winter”. Outside was a large whale bone on display and several pictures of whale slaughters, which happen right at the end of this fjord. Imagine in the picture above when that blue water is reddened with blood. I can’t picture a more unDaviðy place than this…

Back in the city Davið invited Andriy and I inside for a bit. The guy’s got loads of pets including a cute bunny called Eydís. After a few animal cuddles, he put some coffee on. Maybe it was just the cold, but the coffee tasted especially sublime (a blend from Kaffitár I recall), and he served it with a load of biscuits (delicious), cinnamon buns (addictive) and chocolate-licorice sweets (I spat one into a napkin and hid it in my pocket – sorry Davið!). Then I dropped one of the biscuits on the carpet and before I could pick it up, Eydís bit me! Bad bunny!

I miss Davið. As is often the case with Elska, you meet these guys and form a connection in the process of shooting them, but there´s no time in shoot weeks to really hang out. It’s a bit sad but it gives me another reason to go back to Iceland, perhaps next time for a holiday, though one day I’d like to shoot there again too.

To see more of Davið J and to read his story, pick up Elska Magazine Issue (03) Reykjavík), available in shops worldwide or online. See www.elskamagazine.com.